CCK11: Openness and sustainability

A small caveat: it’s been a rough couple of weeks, so I haven’t blogged for our course much, nor have I commented on other folks’ posts as I try to do regularly. My apologies. Between a large increase in my freelance work and the additional time I’ve spent in crowds of teachers, firefighers, police officers, public health workers, prison guards, etc., who are trying to keep their jobs…I’m exhausted.

As I mentioned in my last post, which was my submission of Assignment #2, lately I’ve been chewing on an idea to provide low-cost computer tutoring flashcourses to the kids in my local school district who aren’t getting those skills in school. The trick is to provide these opportunities at extremely low cost but at a cost that is a decent trade for my time. I’m looking at this as a potential Day Job instead of the one I have…it could potentially give me an income that along with all the freelance I do would sustain me and my family. I’m not opposed to making it a nonprofit company—in fact, I have a lot of experience and knowledge about nonprofit organizational setup due to some past employment—but I would need to cover the expenses of the computers, the server, the space, and the equipment as well.

It’s a good time to be reading and discussing openness, then. I need to ask myself some hard questions about the reasons I’m thinking about this project and how it could be both open and sustainable.

For instance, if I create a website with the schedule of courses and so on, that website could also hold any materials I create for a particular course. A standard way of doing this would be to allow those who are taking a course to log in to the site for a specific amount of time after their course ends. An alternative way would be to allow anyone to use those materials, regardless of whether they log in or register for a course. Those materials would be created by me and I would be likely to create them to be used in conjunction with the course. That means that they might not be as helpful on their own. A third alternative would be to set up courses in the way that CCK2011 is set up—that is, the materials are simply links to material freely available already on the web. Anyone could get to them, use them, because they are already there on the web. The value of taking the course is that I’m there to help navigate.

These are kids I’m thinking about, ages 8 and above. Maybe a few even younger. Maybe some adults, too. A person’s reasons for taking a “live” course as opposed to just surfing around looking for stuff is the hands-on, instant help that a navigator/educurator can provide. Parents may enroll their children because they don’t feel comfortable themselves with technology. So it seems as though a combination of alternatives two and three would be ideal. The course materials are online for anyone who wants them. They make sense with or without going through the course. What I would be banking on, literally, is the desire for the hands-on help I can provide. This approach circumvents what George Siemens calls the scarcity approach to information.

However, I also have another layer of concern: how do learners take charge of their learning? On the one hand, this is about the actual flashcourse itself: what happens in the space, how I set up a schedule that allows for play and wandering, what learners learn from each other and how I can make that happen, etc. This is a classroom management approach issue that I feel confident handling. On the other hand, this is about these open materials: how could learners add what they find on their own to the official reading list? How could I manage that so that it does not get out of control—for instance, (illogically) assuming an explosion of interest, perhaps 100 different participants could add 200 different links to other materials, and then exponentially that list increases to 400, to 800…and then by doing so a lot of repetition in what they find and add needs to be cleaned up…which adds enormously to the time I’m putting in…. (Maybe that is why CCK2011 participants can link to other things on our blogs and send them to each other but cannot add to the official [] list?)

Here, you reader, you: help me out: Is it “openness versus sustainability” or is it “openness with sustainability”? Can a person like me do both?


2 Responses to CCK11: Openness and sustainability

  1. Jaap says:

    On the last probelem: you did tell us the solution, make a divide between comments and courseware, comments in the blog, courseware on the pages.
    give enrolled students (paying) a page of theri own to publish work.

    Is it possible to make the schools pay for your lessons on that schools? You offering to do what the schools cannot do?
    regards Jaap

  2. This sounds like a really good idea.

    Random thoughts: My experience in working with open resources has been minimal in an educational setting. In trying to assemble “relevant” material into a “coherent” course the greatest frustration came from not being able to come up with a linear progression of this-follows-that. I think this difficulty mirrors an educational system based on carefully selected puzzles where everything falls into place. Everyone know it will from the very start.

    In a sense I find what we have been arguing about in CCK11 is the discomfort of being handed disparate objects and being left to figure out how they connect. Instead of the material being presented as an already finished object that’s been disassembled for our learning enjoyment, we are presented with a boundless pile of resources and need to both identify things that match and then puzzle out why they match.

    A person needs permission and confidence to operate in the open world. Permission to make mistakes, from themselves and others. Confidence to approach the world like they have every right to ask anyone any question and expect an answer. Learning to be expressive in whatever subject or craft interest a person is involved in is something the “schools” seem to have no time for. To fall down or to eventually be the most famous screw-up in a field–not such a bad thing.

    Try: “Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education.”ISBN 978-08077-4818-3 (paper)


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